If you’re just joining us, check out the About This Project link for details. Basically, I make playlists of all the singles by certain musical artists and then try to order them using the guiding principle “do I like each song more than the last song.” I define “single” in a broad enough way to include any song that was released as a purchasable single in any format in any country; as a promotional single in any country; as a video; or generally any song that I know charted anywhere. My main sources are Wikipedia (mostly reliable) and Discogs (reasonably reliable). I welcome editing feedback since sometimes I favor speed over spelling.
I believe I mentioned this before, but Green Day is working on new music so I’d best not dawdle. Let’s go.
Charted song from Revolution Radio (2016), charted in 2016
There were three official singles from Revolution Radio but an additional five tracks from that album charted on the UK rock charts and, thus, appear here on my list. Essentially, this means that Revolution Radio (which only has 12 tracks) is the most over represented album on this list. That’s all right because it’s generally a pretty terrific album. Green Day ditched some of the ambition of their previous three (concept album/double concept album/triple but not concept album) releases and went for a straight up (punk) rock record. “Outlaws” is a nostalgic sequel to “Christie Road” (#59) wherein Billie Joe reflects on how much he enjoyed being a young man breaking into cars and stuff. Indeed, Revolution Radio has a more than a touch of looking back wistfully, wearily and warily in both it’s sound and it’s lyrics. This is not a complaint because, heck, those themes connect with my life. The only thing that knocks this song down a little bit for me is I think many of us tend to romanticize our younger selves a bit and I feel like that’s what happening here. I’m really cynical about the idea that anybody was a particularly better person when they were young and ignorant – or engaging in petty crime.
49. Going to Pasalacqua
“Mock-up” single of a song originally from 39/Smooth (1990), mock-up released in 2012
39/Smooth was Green Day’s first album (released on Lookout Records) featured original drummer John Kiffmeyer. It sounds like he and the band split amicably after Kiffmeyer went to college and he’s played on at least one occasion with Dirnt and Armstrong since then. According to Genius.com, it’s unclear exactly what or where “Pasalacqua” is – many think it was a funeral home in Rodeo, CA. “Going to Pasalacqua” is a very catchy Green Day tune and if it doesn’t quite rank up with the songs they wrote later, well, that’s a sign that they were growing as songwriters and musicians It wasn’t actually released as a single – nothing from 39/Smooth was – but a “mock-up” single was created for the Green Day: Ultimate Collectors collection.
48. The Forgotten
Charted song from ¡Tré! (2012) and from the soundtrack to The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012), charted in 2012
Somehow, Green Day and The Twilight Saga movies intersected in 2012 and I’m still not 100% sure what to make of that. Bill Murray voiced Garfield. I dunno, sometimes you do what you’ve got to do. To be fair, I’m being a bit (sic) of a snob here and I’ve not actually watched the saga. Anyhow, “The Forgotten” is also the last song on ¡Tré! and received mixed response as the concluding song of the trilogy. Billie Joe Armstrong is a great punk rock singer, but he may be an even better singer of rock ballads – indeed, had the 21st Century Breakdown album track “Last Night On Earth” been released as a single, it would be a top five song on this list. I like how he structures the lyrics of this song – he plays with pronouns to make the titular forgotten people himself, then you, then everyone. This song and the next sort of move us from the “meh” section of tunes to the “really quite good” section.
47. 21 Guns
Second single from 21st Century Breakdown (2009), released as a single in 2009
When I first listened to 21st Century Breakdown, “21 Guns” was my early pick for “best song from that album.” I still like it, but it has slid down in my estimation (while other non-single tracks like “Last Night on Earth,” “Peacemaker” and the kick-butt “Horseshoes and Handgrenades” are among my favorite Green Day songs ever). If “21 Guns” doesn’t get more love from me, it can console itself in the fact that it was a pretty big hit and received a great deal of critical acclaim. I really love the chime tones that open the track and it has no shortage of musical hooks. In terms of lyrics, the song has a different meaning out of context of the album – it comes across as a general anti-war statement. There’s an overarching story-line on 21st Century Breakdown and, in that context, the song is pretty clearly using the military imagery as a metaphor for the relationship between the story’s central couple.
Music video from ¡Uno! (2012), video released in 2012
“Troublemaker” kicks off with a fantastic guitar hook that is one of the catchiest licks Billie Joe and company have ever recorded. The rest of the song doesn’t quite rise up to GOAT level but it’s still generally a fine tune with some terrific wordplay. I find the chorus to be a bit of a disappointment but not so much that it spoils my overall enjoyment of the track.
45. Somewhere Now
Charted single from Revolution Radio (2012), charted in 2012
I’ve moved this song up on this list several times since I started working on this Green Day project and, given a few more weeks, would almost certainly move it up some more. When I first downloaded Revolution Radio, “Somewhere Now” didn’t especially stick in my head (even as the opening track), but I’m in the process of coming around to thinking it’s one of the band’s best. Not there yet, but give me a few more months. The acoustic guitar that opens the track is pure 70’s classic rock joy and ultimately you can hear the influence of The Who through the whole track. Furthermore, Tre Cool’s drumming is perfection. What’s not to love? In general, I think Revolution Radio is a first-rate addition to the Green Day catalog and you’ll be seeing songs from that album in almost every section of this list from here forward. Oh, and the rave-up at the end of “Somewhere Now” is fabulous. This song really shines live – seriously, listen to Tre Cool. Holy cats.
Charted single from Revolution Radio (2016), charted in 2016
I don’t make a particular effort to prevent two songs from the same album from being back to back on this list, but it’s unusual for that to happen none-the-less. I’m a little ambivalent on “Youngblood” in general (the chorus is pretty meh to me), but this love song from Billie Joe to his wife, Adrienne, has one moment that is among the greatest in any Green Day song. If you know the song, you know what I’m referring to. If you don’t, let me direct you to the final verse. It doesn’t rock as much when you read it, but in the song it is one of the ultimate Green Day lyrics – almost a microcosm of the band’s entire career to my ear. I struggle justifying ranking the song any higher, but that verse pushes it into the “songs that rock” section of the list.
43. When It’s Time
Single from American Idiot: The Original Broadway Cast Recording (2012), released as a single in 2012
Let me just throw this out there universe – if anyone wants to stage the musical version of American Idiot in Hawai’i, I am available to play St. Jimmy. To the matter at hand, Billie Joe Armstrong wrote “When It’s Time” to his wife (then girlfriend) Adrienne when he was 19 but the band didn’t record the song until 2012 as a bonus track on the cast recording from the American Idiot stage play. Both the lyrics and the music are really lovely and this is another song that has risen in my estimation as I’ve worked on this project (apparently, 41-50 is where those songs came home to roost). While we’re here, I would have loved to have seen the Broadway production – my professional interest in theatre and my personal love of great rock music so rarely overlap. For years, I’ve envisioned in my head how to stage certain concept albums (I have an idea for staging “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd, for example) and I am thrilled that one of my favorite records became a play. More of this please )and invite me to direct it).
42. 2000 Light Years Away
“Mock-up” single originally on Kerplunk (1991), mock-up released in 2012
I didn’t realize until I was researching this list that “When It’s Time” and “2000 Light Years Away” were kind of written around the same time in Green Day’s career. I also swear that I didn’t know that this song (like the previous two) was about Billie Joe’s wife Adrienne until I started writing about these tracks tonight. I’m relieved I’ve ranked them all on the “songs I think are pretty great” section instead of the early segment. Anyhow, this is easily my favorite song on Kerplunk (that doesn’t appear on another album). Green Day was developing very quickly as a creative unit with the addition of Tre Cool and they were one record away from exploding. You can hear the fuse being lit on this track. I mean, not literally.
First single from Warning (2000), released as a single in 2000
Warning is a seriously underrated album and it didn’t perform commercially up to expectations at the time. It’s significant that their next album of new material after this one was American Idiot – I think the band realized they needed to up their game if they were to stay relevant. Isn’t that what all artists should do? Warning was a quietly ambitious record in its own way – it wasn’t a concept album by any stretch of the imagination, but it sounds like Green Day is exploring the limits of their chosen sound palette. Despite the tepid sales of the album, this particular track spent five weeks at number one on the Modern Rock charts in 2000. Much like “21 Guns” (see above), “Minority” used to be my favorite song from Warning but as time has passed, I’ve cooled on it a bit. Still like it quite a bit and I dig that Billie Joe was getting political with his lyrics at just the right time in history (and I particularly love everything about the second verse).
Coming Soon: Two covers and a couple more classics ranked way too low.